COLUMBUS, OH — It was one of those games after which neither coach is particularly happy, although one happily took two points.
Notre Dame beat Ohio State 4-2 in the Fighting Irish’s CCHA opener, but the pace of the contest — which saw just three penalties called — left both coaches reaching for the same word post-game: cycling.
“It did seem slow to me,” said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson. “I’m not sure exactly why that was, because neither team was sitting back on their forecheck or anything, so it shouldn’t have been slow…but it did have the appearance of being a little bit slow.
“There was a lot of defensive zone coverage and cycling going on in both ends, and that always has the tendency to slow things down.”
“I thought that Notre Dame could sustain cycles,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I thought we did a better job of that in the second period and the third period. We were way off in the first period, which allowed them to maintain momentum in our end.”
Mark Van Guilder led the Irish in scoring with a goal and an assist; Eric Condra, Christian Hanson, and Jason Paige accounted for the other Irish goals. David Brown had 22 saves on 24 shots for his fifth win of the season.
The Irish jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the two-minute mark in the second, but allowed two unanswered Ohio State goals in the middle stanza to make it 3-2 after two. Paige’s power-play goal capped the scoring midway through the third.
“I thought we were really sloppy the second half, made a lot of poor decisions with the puck, turned the puck over a bit too much, and Ohio State took advantage of it,” said Jackson. “I thought that they picked up their game and I thought that we were sloppy as the game progressed.”
ND scored first at 8:54 in the first on Condra’s goal from the left circle on a feed by Brett Blatchford, and Hanson made it 2-0 at 16:16 when he took advantage of OSU goaltender Nick Filion’s foray to the backside of the Buckeye cage, scoring on an empty net when Justin White passed out to him from behind the goal.
“We need a good netminder in there,” said Markell. “We have a great defensive team come in here, the top defensive team in the nation — you can’t spot them two goals like that. That was one of our problems out there.”
Joseph Palmer replaced Filion at the start of the third period, but there was little immediate difference. Van Guilder scored at 1:52, a soft goal that trickled in between Palmer’s right leg and the post.
At 5:16, Buckeye Tommy Goebel banked a puck in off the back end of Irish defender Wes O’Neill’s skate blade to make it a 3-1 game, and that seemed to spark the Buckeyes for the rest of the stanza. Andrew Schembri pulled the Buckeyes to within one at 16:23, taking a page from ND’s playbook by capitalizing on some good cycling down low in front of the net.
The game remained 3-2 until Paige earned his third goal of the season, on the ND power play at 8:29 in the third.
“We had too many guys who were off their ‘A’ game tonight, but we also had some guys who were on their game,” said Markell. “I thought we had enough opportunities to stay in it.”
Jackson said the game wasn’t what he expected from his team, which has been playing a more up-tempo brand of hockey in its quick start to the 2006-07 season.
The No. 10 Irish backed off a bit in the second, said Jackson because of “a little comfort after that third goal,” but added that Ohio State deserved “credit,” too. “I thought that once they scored, they started getting some momentum, especially after that second goal.”
Filion finished with 11 saves on 13 shots through the first 20 minutes of hockey. Palmer earned the loss with 15 saves. Notre Dame was 1-for-2 on the power play, OSU 0-for-1.
The Irish improve to 6-1-0 overall (1-0-0 CCHA), while the Buckeyes drop to 2-5-0 (2-3-0 CCHA). The teams meet for their final regular-season meeting Saturday night at Value City Arena, where the puck drops at 7:05 p.m.